Be Human First!
A Study by Pastor John © April 1999 (revised 8-8-2006)
Mark 2:23 - 27:
"And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.
And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?
And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?
How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the showbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?
And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath."
May I repeat?
The Sabbath was made for people, and not people for the Sabbath!
- This was one of Jesus' main and most controversial themes. Traditionally the Jews have placed Torah observance above almost everything else. Strictly obeying the 613 commandments was the key concept in Jewish righteousness and Jesus often called this view into question. According to the Rabbis (or Pharisees) to save a life, one could violate Shabbat, but short of that...
- Have you ever met people who were so "holy" you just wanted to shake them to wake them up? I sure have! They were seemingly so "holy" they were of no earthly good!
- People who just love to quote the Scripture AT you, and tell you exactly how, where, why, and when you are, in their opinion, missing the mark of God's standard. Well I sure have!
- But you know, there's good news today! If you're hungry, you can eat the showbread! If you're hungry, you can gather corn on the Sabbath! Because you see, Shabbat was made for you, and not you for the Shabbat! The Bible was made for people, not people for the Bible. So, it you're hungry for God this morning, God invites you to reach out and take the fruit of God's love! It's meant for you!
- Now, don't misunderstand me here, I love the Bible! I read it, I study it, I honor it, but the fact is, the Bible didn't save me, Jesus did!
- The Bible didn't save me, Jesus did! I discuss this subject at some length elsewhere.
- Nonetheless, some well meaning Christians just love to take the Bible and try to control and legislate the lives of others based upon their understanding of its teachings. They try to make people live for the Sabbath instead of allowing the Sabbath to be a blessing and helper to us! Such people condemn others and teach that they must not be who they are. They must change and deny their basic natures and personalities! They say people must change their appearance, must deny their sense of right and wrong, and must reject their loved ones, and so on if they would know God's love.
- Nonsense! That would be Bad News, not Good News and Gospel means "Good News"!
- Not picking on anybody here, but in 1856 the Reverend Thorton Stringfellow spoke for the Southern Baptist Convention when he proclaimed:
"...Jesus Christ recognized the institution of slavery as one that was lawful, and he regulated its relative duties...I affirm then ... that Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery... [A Baptist minister of Culpeper County Virginia, author of the extensively distributed A Scriptural View - 1856].
- Believe it or not, it was not until 1995 that the Southern Baptist Convention issued a formal retraction and apology for their denominational support of slavery!
- And more recently, in 1991 Reverend Pat Robertson of the Christian Coalition and 700 Club said the following concerning Jewish people:
"The New Testament reveals that Jews both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men. History records the terrible sufferings the Jewish people have experienced as a result." [From an editorial in the Christian Coalition's newsletter, July/August 1991]
- So the Shoah and other atrocities were the Jew's fault according to Pat Robertson!
- In 1992 Reverend Jay Grimstead, director of the ecumenical Coalition on Revival wrote:
"Homosexuality makes God vomit." [quoted in the Advocate, Oct. 20, 1992]
- Such hateful intolerance and Biblical abuses remind us of those immortal words of the Bard, William Shakespeare:
"Even the devil can cite scripture for bias purpose."
- Yes indeed! For far too long too much of the Christian Church has missed the central theme of Jesus' message!
- What did the Master stress time and time again? What was his central message? Was it to blindly obey the Bible without regard to potential harm? Was it law over grace, justice over mercy? Was it hate your neighbor? No!
- Recall the woman caught in the act of adultery? The religious people wanted to stone her to death. And this was the biblical teaching under the Law of Moses! They could correctly cite the Bible as their authority to kill this poor woman. But recall Jesus' words to her accusers,
"Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone."
- Jesus teachings are that we must love our enemies, that we must turn the other cheek to those who would strike us, that we must judge not, least we be judged because those who so judge may be judged by the same measure by which they judge!
- Jesus' message is:
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
- As we read Jesus' words in the Bibles we find, at places like Matthew 7:28 and 29, that those who heard his teachings were astonished by them because he spoke from the heart with power and wisdom not according to the letter of the Law.
- Matt. 22:34-40:
"When the Pharisees had heard that Jesus had put the Seduces to silence, they were gathered together.
Then one of them, who was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and said:
Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it, You must love your neighbor as yourself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
- So simple and yet utterly profound and impossible to realize in our own power and strength.
- How can we love our neighbors, let alone our enemies, as we love ourselves?
- Yesterday at Cabrillo hundreds of us gathered together and proclaimed that hate is not acceptable at Cabrillo, in Santa Cruz or any where else in our lives. We came there as young people, old people, Black, Asian, Semitic and Gentile, as Christians and Buddhist, Hindus and Sikhs, Native peoples and so many others. We came there united in a cause, with a single voice. It was wonderful!
- One way we can love our neighbors as ourselves is to stand with one another when people face persecution and bigotry; realizing that together we stand but divided we will surely fall!
- We can love our neighbor as ourselves when we commit ourselves to paths of non-violence in their defense.
- We can love our neighbor as ourselves when we commit ourselves to honoring diversity.
- At the heart of it all, I believe, is the message that we can truly love our neighbors as ourselves only when we allow ourselves to be truly human. When we lay aside the walls and labels we use to define and divide us: I am Christian, I am Hindu, I am Jewish, I am Pagan, I am gay, I am lesbian, I am straight, I am American, I am Russian, I am Asian, etc.
- NO! First and foremost, I am a human being! First and foremost, I am a child of the One God. When I understand this, then I can understand that first and foremost you too are a human being! Unique and wondrously made! As I look at the person who is you I can see and appreciate such diversity, such beauty. God's diversity, God's beauty!
- Seeing this, how can we remain divided? How can we hate one another once we realize that we all are sisters and brothers, created from the dust of the same earth?
- In you, I see the hand of God at work. The color of your skin, your sexual orientation, the language you speak, and the paths you have walked. In your diversity, I see my own Path, my own fears and loves, dreams and failings. In you, I see God at work. It is only then that I can truly reach out and love you as you as you are, even as I love myself, or at the least, that I come to develop a true desire to want to do this!
- Jesus said:
"If I be lifted up, I will draw everyone unto myself."
- What did Jesus mean by this?
- He taught that when we feed the poor, we're really feeding him; when we minister to the hurting, we're ministering unto him, when we welcome the rejected, we're really welcoming him.
- This is the heart of Christianity! This is the heart of all religions of light:
"Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:6-8)
- Yes, there will always be those who seek to divide people into groups and subgroups, who abuse the Scriptures to their own ends. But when all is said and done:
- We are to: Love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind. And to love our neighbors as ourselves.
- Everything else, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, our buildings, our doctrines and rules, everything is given to help us accomplish this task.
- Jesus charges each us today:
Be Fully Human!
- Thank you very much. May God bless you as you continue Reaching for the One!
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